Treasure Hunters Hit Jackpot!
U.S treasure hunters have hit the jackpot with the recent discovery of a sunken World War II ship off the coast of Britain. The cargo ship, the SS Gairsoppa was carrying 218 tons of silver from India to Britain, when it broke away from the group to refuel in Ireland.
Disaster struck in the form of a German torpedo that sunk the ship, sending its crew and its valuable treasures to a watery grave. Only one crew member survived for thirteen days aboard a lifeboat. The huge haul of silver was intended to fund British operations during World War II. If the entire silver can be recovered, it may be worth as much as U.S $200 million!
Odyssey Marine Exploration is a Florida-based company in the U.S that goes after sunken treasures -- basically they are treasure hunters. They have received approval from the British government to haul the sunken treasure and in return, will receive 80% of the cargo's value. Pretty good deal, don't you think!
The wreck was found with the help of an underwater robot which took three and a half hours to descend to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The robot captured a video of the rusty ship, which revealed a ladder leading to the deck, a stern compass, and even an intact toilet. The torpedo hole in the hull was also clearly visible. Although none of the precious metal was filmed, Odyssey is confident that it is still there.
Recovering the treasures will not be an easy task as the SS Gairsoppa lies in an unexplored part of the North Atlantic, known as the Abyssal zone. This region is characterized by vast depths, total lack of sunlight, and waters devoid of nutrients but high in oxygen content. Inspite of the harsh conditions, bacteria and some marine life forms do survive in these depths. Marine biologists will be watching this recovery closely, for you never know -- perhaps new species of animals lie waiting to be discovered!
Treasure hunters or looters?
It is believed that there are more than three million shipwrecks worldwide with billions of dollars worth of treasures and precious cargo at the bottom of our oceans. Just earlier this year, Odyssey had found a ship off the coast of Spain loaded with half a million silver coins and several gold objects. The find is being contested by the Spanish government which is laying claim to the treasure.
It has raised the age-old debate of whether treasure hunting is legal, or is it looting another's property. These days, treasure hunting has moved beyond hobby, and has become a profession for those with a passion! Backyard treasure hunters using a simple metal detector have unearthed a treasure trove of silver coins, unique badges, civil war memorabilia and more in their neighborhoods, parks and beaches.
What do you think - should treasure hunters be allowed to keep their findings since they have taken the pain to recover them, or not? Why?